By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Mayor Edward M. O’Brien received a freshly pressed copy of “A Brief History of West Haven, Conn., 1986-2017” from author and city historian Jon E. Purmont during a presentation Oct. 12 at City Hall.
Purmont, who wrote and edited the narrative, chronicled the city’s annals from 1986 through 2017.
He was assisted by West Haven scribes Diane Dorman Arduini, Susan Walker and William J. Heffernan III, who contributed the sections “Cove River Archaeology Site,” “Public Education” and “West Haven Fire Service,” respectively.
“I want to thank and commend Jon, along with Diane, Bill and Susan, for collecting this essential information and continuing the story of our great city for the enjoyment of future generations,” said O’Brien, who had commissioned Purmont, president of the West Haven Historical Society, to compose an updated history of the city.
Two years in the making, Purmont’s 31-page booklet is now the authorized follow-up to “A Brief History of West Haven, Conn.: Celebrating 25 Years as a City,” the 16-page “little blue booklet” penned in 1986 by then-city historian Harriet C. North and Bennett W. Dorman, who later succeeded North as West Haven’s history curator.
The new booklet, published Oct. 6 by the central services office at City Hall, contains color photos taken by various photographers, including Dan Shine and Michael P. Walsh, the city’s public relations information coordinator.
The layout was done by city Information Technology Manager David W. Richards.
The booklet, also printed on light blue cover stock, is available for free in the mayor’s office on the third floor of City Hall, 355 Main St., and at the Historical Society’s Poli House headquarters, 686 Savin Ave.
In addition to covering major economic development, expansion and redevelopment projects from the past 30 years, including the opening of the $130 million Metro-North Railroad commuter station in 2013, the booklet details important events, the burgeoning presence of the University of New Haven and Yale University, and “Emergency Services,” such as the city’s takeover of the Allingtown Fire District in 2012 and renaming the department the City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown.
It documents the multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Sawmill Road, a strip of hotels, retail stores and restaurants; the recently opened Atwood, an $18 million, 90,150-square-foot apartment and commercial development on Boston Post Road; and the highly anticipated Haven South, a $200 million, 250,000-square-foot luxury fashion outlet mall on Water Street.
The booklet also catalogs a comprehensive reference list of former and current mayors, police chiefs and fire chiefs, both paid and volunteer, in the appendix.
In the booklet’s conclusion, Purmont, an emeritus professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University, wrote: “This brief history of West Haven reveals a vibrant and vigorous city moving forward to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. It is a community which has evolved from a small farming village established in 1648, to a dynamic, forward looking, diverse community of over 50,000 citizens.”
“The many strengths of West Haven — its people, its expanding service-based economy, and its commitment to providing opportunity for all its citizens — are outstanding characteristics of this community,” he wrote.
Purmont further wrote, “The future of one of Connecticut’s oldest settlements and newest municipalities is hopeful and full of promise.”